Interviews: Brian May: Canadian Radio 97.7 HTZ '91
Transcribed from the CD that came with the book 'These Are The Days Of Our Lives'
K = Kristy
B = Brian
B: How are you doin'?
K: Fine, how are you sir?
B: I'm OK. You sound a bit different, uhmm distant, can you hear me all right?
K: Yes we're fine, we're just on the speaker-phone while we do this interview sir.
B: OH Kay.
K: Well I'll speak loudly, and you can listen closely, how's that?
B: Yes.... I can just about hear you.
K: Really?.... We've got a lot of questions to ask you today.
B: OK Kristy, fire away!
K: A TOUR, WHERE'S THE TOUR? Where have you guys been, we've got a thousand calls a week talking about you guys, what's going on?
B: (Something about Thursday, can't hear what) Well the tour is hopefully on the way, that's one of the reasons I came out here, just to stir things up a little, then I will go back and talk to the others and say 'Look we really should do this'.
B: Yeah. So I'm not going to promise it yet, but I definitely hope to be out there before too long.
K: Really. You haven't toured in a while though, is it ahh....
B: Much, much too long I know yes. It's our own fault.
K: Is it to the point that it's too expensive to tour, or what's going on.
B: No, there's a lot of money to be made out there now. I mean, in the days when we used to tour we used to spend it all on the production, so we never made much out of touring. These days, there's a lot of money to be made, 'cause there's sponsorship and all sorts of things going on, you know.
K: Huh Huh.
B: Ahhmm, and I don't doubt that we could make pots of money doing it, but that's not the reason that you go on tour, you know, you do it really, to have fun I would say.
K: So how come you haven't had fun Brian?
B: Well we've had fun other places I'm afraid to tell you Kristy.
K: (Laughs), Oh, where are you finding fun?
K: Where are you finding fun.
B: Well we get a lot of stuff in, well England and Europe, as you know, we've done a lot of things, and also we started to sort of make a career out of uhh opening up places, and it came like a sort of crusade, we were the first people to go to Brazil and Argentina and Venezuela, and do things properly. Like to take the whole giant rig and do football stadiums all round the place, and we packed them, it was a wonderful experience. Then we came back and did a lot of the Eastern countries, like we did Budapest and Yugoslavia and then all round Europe. And what we did unfortunately for here is, we looked at the map and said, well were are we hot, where shall we go that, you know, where we're selling records, and North America is the only place that we weren't, so it became a sort of chicken and the egg situation... I personally think it would have been better If we had come here. I would have liked to come here, even if it wasn't, you know, as hot as it had been before..We didn't come here, and I think the whole thing just snowballed in reverse, you know what I'm saying.
K: Yeah, I understand. How is....
B: (..) very happy that this album seems to be so well received, and it seems like we've... I mean, a lot of the credit should go to Hollywood records which we've signed with, who've definitely made an effort to put us back in communication with North America.
K: Definitely, definitely, and it's selling well, it's doing well. We get a lot of requests for this record too.
B: Yes, it feels great. I've been on a little tour all round and the response I've got has been great, and so many people have said, - Well, we've been with you all along - and uhm it's nice, you know. I know that a lot of the stuff in the intermediate, just didn't get here.
K: Let's talk about uhm a few rumours that are shakin' around, and people are calling up on it and we just want to get some, some confirmation or some denials.
We have heard that Freddie tends to lose his voice on tour, and that may be one of the reasons you didn't wanna venture over here, is that true?
B: Oh no, it's not true. We have ways of taking care of Freddie, you know. Normally we would do not more than three nights a week. Freddie does go for it on stage. It's like the most intense thing for two hours, you know. He doesn't hold back any, he doesn't hold back anything, he pulls out all the stops and uhm... No, we take care of that, it's ok. Well the reason, to be truthful, is that Freddie doesn't want to do it at the moment. He's been, as we all have on the road on and off for the last 20 years. We did... 15 year of that was spent...three quarters on the road, so he says 'Sorry, I don't want to do it right now', and that's the end of the story really. You know, if one of us doesn't want to, no one can force them to go out, you know. Me, I would love to, I would be out there tomorrow. But life is a little easier for me, 'cause I just have to make a lot of noise with the guitar, it doesn't depend on whether I can deliver vocally every night.
K: What about this little Vanilla Ice character, shall we talk about that?
B: Yeah, he's another rumour.
K: Yeah, I just wanna know, what happened? We get it that he didn't ask to use Under Pressure, and when you heard it, what happened? Did you just hear it on the radio one day and think oh my God, what's going on here.
B: I'll tell you what happened. Our Fan Club lady heard it and she went out and found the record, brought it back and played it and said, 'Have you heard this?' I think it sounds like Under Pressure, and we thought, yes he definitely stole 'Under Pressure'. And I said, I don't think it's going to matter, cause no ones going to buy it, obviously, you know, it doesn't sound that good. And then... a couple of weeks later, it was number one in the US and a couple of weeks after that it was number one every place else in the world. So I'll admit my mistake. A big seller, it did very well, and good luck to the guy.........except that he should have given us some credit, and some royalties.
B: But it's been sorted out folks because uhm, we didn't sue him but Hollywood Records did. Hollywood, who'd just spent millions of dollars on buying our catalogue said, ohy- ohy, this guy is pillaging the Queen catalogue, so we're going to make sure he pays, so they did. So now we get royalties on what he did with that track.
K: Let's talk about Innuendo. This seems to be the first time, well it is, the first time, I think, that the band has sat down together to write an album. Ahhm, why did that come about now?
B: It's not the first time, Uhhmm, but the last two albums were the first time, but the Miracle album and Innuendo, we made the decision that no matter who came up with the idea for the song, it would be credited to Queen, and not individuals, and I think it's the best single decision we ever made. I just wish we made it 20 years ago instead of a couple of years ago, 'cause it makes such a difference to the creation process. I would recommend it to anyone, anyone who is actually a proper group. You know, it leads to so much uhmm, unhappiness, if you don't do that, you know, because everybody regards their song as their baby, and it makes the creation process very difficult. But nowadays we say OK, this is gonna come out, it's gonna have 'Queen' on, and it's going to have my name on it, so I'm gonna make sure it's the way I want it to be. So every song on the Innuendo album has really been hammered out between the four of us. There's a lot more participation. And boy, let me tell you, it makes it so much easier afterwards when you're trying to choose the single, you don't have this business of somebody saying, - well, it's my track and I want it out, it's important to me. Just choose it on musical merit, nothing else.
K: You know, this is a band that's been around, like you said, well over 20 years. How have you guys kept it together?
B: We just like each other (Laughs)
K: Simple as that huh?
B: We didn't always, it was tough at some times in the middle when we were all going our separate ways, but we've been through so much crap, you know, in our personal lives. You know, we've all had major crises, and major things to deal with, that the group becomes almost the only constant factor in your life. The group is pretty well family to us now, and we're very close these days.
K: Huh Huh, I've always wondered why you didn't go out and do the (...) solo record. Because you have one of if not THE most distinct guitar sounds in Rock'n'Roll history.
B: That's very nice of you to say so. The reason I don't is because I don't really like that kind of album. I don't like the sort of non-stop virtuosity bit. Much though I admire those guys, you know, my preference is to have an album of songs, and it's always the songs that are the backdrop for the best work I think, you know, so that's what I'm working on at the moment. I'm about three quarters the way through my solo album. But it is, it's a lot of songs and I'm singing I'm afraid folks.
K: Oh Boy!
B: So, I'm going to chance it once, you know, but the thing is, I don't like just going on all night. I like to have proper structures and proper uhm, you know, overall thought process, you know.
K: So when do you know... I mean is that album going to be out soon? Do you know, or is it just kind of a side project for you right now?
B: Yeah, I hope by the end of the year, it'll be finished and out.
B: I'm pretty sure it'll be on Hollywood, 'cause these people have a very very good input, I like them a lot
K: Very Exciting! So, well, can I get back to the guitar sound, because, when I was...uhm, younger (laughs) and playing guitar.....
B: How old are you Kristy?
K: Ahhm, well, I'm the closest to 30 than I've ever been right now Brian. (Both Laugh). That scares the hell out of me!
B: Which side of 30?
K: Uhmm, underneath, (mumbles) 28 - anyway, let's not talk about that (laughs). Let's talk about that sound that you've got. Was that just years and years and years of you playing and playing, or did all of a sudden one day you and the (?..) are sitting down and you found it? How did that sound come about, and what is it?
K: Is it your guitar, is it your hands, is it anything you're using on that, where did it come from?
B: It's a combination. I made the guitar, with my dad about 20 years ago. We worked on it for about two years solid, basically because I couldn't afford a guitar. That's the truth, uhmm, and it's got a few different things about it, you know, it was built to feed back, as opposed to being built to not feed back for a start.
It has a special tremolo design, lots of different features, which, strangely enough now, are becoming used by other people, uhmm, so the guitar is different, also the amps are different, I worked with a few amplifiers and I had in my head the sound that I wanted to achieve. I knew I wanted it to sing and I want it to be articulate, and it would have that sort of edge that would be warm, human, and I found these things called vox 80/30's which are an old tube amplifier, and they're a class A amplifier. It means they distort in a different kind of way from the usual kind of (? Marshall stack) effect. So they go very smoothly into distortion, and they, they sing. So I guess it's guitar, amplifier, and also me. I suppose I play a bit differently, I didn't really learn from anyone directly. I evolved my own kind of ways of doing things, so it sounds different.
K: Yes, wonderful sound, I love it. Is it true, do you have a Phd in Astrology. We read this in all the books and I always wonder is it true?
B: Well, I'll tell you what happened, I uhmm... Astrology was going to be my career, that's what my parents were hoping I would do really. They wanted me to do a proper job, as we call it in England, and not loon around playing guitars and making a noise. So I did my studies, finished school, got my 'O' Levels, got my 'A' levels. I went to University - Imperial College, London - I did 3 years and got a BSc honours in physics, which had a fair bit of Astronomy in it, and then I did 4 years post-graduate for the PhD in Astronomy, but I never finished writing the thing up. I published a couple of papers with my supervisor, but that's where I left it, and uhmm, I don't regret leaving it. It was the right time. I had to give the group a shot at that point, or else I would have regretted it for the rest of my life.
K: Yeah. So having that background, how do you feel about our environment at this point in time.
B: I'm shocked and horrified. I don't think people can make enough noise about it. I mean, it has to be fast and big, and we have to start thinking what we're doing.
K: Do you think it's too late, has enough damage been done?
B: I'm not clever enough to know that really, but I think it's very touch and go from what I can see. I think for some things it is too late, you know for a lot of the animals, a lot of the flora and fauna, yes it will be too late and we're going to suffer heavily for it. But, I think there's an outside chance that we can at least divert complete disaster.
K: Huh huh, I find though right now, that so many people are still ignorant about it, and I don't know if we can change their minds, do you?
B: No, what the danger is I think, there's people like Sting went out there and did a lot of good stuff, but it unfortunately things become a trendy item for a while, and then because they've been trendy for a while, they become kind of passé', and there's a risk that people are going to think - Oh yeah that was all done, you know, people made a lot of fuss about that, and it's OK now. Well it ain't OK, and it has to be...... all power to those people who do that, you know. We do a little bit ourselves, as you know, and it just needs everyone's attention now.
K: Thanks for calling us today Brian, appreciate it.
B: Thanks a lot Kristy.
K: Hopefully we'll see you here soon, because, yes sir, there IS some money to be made, we do need you over here.
K: So, get over here! Get Freddie out of his bed and get him out there, OK.
B: All right.
K: All right, thanks for talking to us.
B: Thanks Kristy, bye.
K: Bye bye Brian